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Diane is from the United States and she moved to Turkey with her three children. Her choice was local school, and in this interesting article she tells us about her experience, which will be of great interest to all parents who choose local schooling for expatkids.

When we decided to move our family overseas, many people warned us that local schooling for expatkids would always be an issue for our children. We consider ourselves (and our kids) to be pretty flexible and were up for the challenge. We started researching options on the internet and found a couple of international schools, but the cost of tuition quickly eliminated them as options. We decided that our first choice would be enrolling our kids in the local schools. If for some reason that didn’t work, I’d home school.

We moved to Turkey in the beginning of March. 10 days after arriving in our new country, we enrolled our 6 year old daughter in Kindergarten and our 8 year old in 2nd grade at the small government run school down the street.

I’ll never forget the first day we left them there. They knew how to say “Hello” and count to 10 in the new language, but not much else. The students were very friendly towards them and eager to practice the phrases they knew in English on our kids. “Hello. What is your name? Hello. What is your name? Hello. What is your name?” over and over and over again.

The first couple of days of all the attention were fun for our kids, but it quickly became irritating and at the same time, they were becoming frustrated with their inability to understand anything that was going on around them. In addition, our son was struggling because boys interact very differently here than they do in the States. There was a lot of “rough housing” and he wasn’t able to determine if the other boys were intending to play with him or actually wanted to hurt him. We encouraged them to stick it out until the end of the year, but it was a daily battle to get them into their classrooms.

We made it to the end of the year, but it was obvious that we needed to re-evaluate our decision of attending the local school. After a few weeks of letting the kids “recuperate” from their immersion experience, we tried to get a good feel of what they thought about returning there in the fall. We told them the two main reasons we thought it was a good choice: they would learn the language quickly and they would have friends in the neighborhood. After much thinking and praying, we decided that our daughter would return in September and start 1st grade, but our son would be home schooled.

I am very thankful that our daughter continued in that school. She completed first grade with flying colors, thanks to a very understanding teacher and her own persistent personality. Not every day was great and she received many “rewards” (a.k.a. bribes) throughout the year for her perseverance. She still isn’t totally fluent in the language, but she has several national friends and has a flawless accent. In addition, having her in that school has allowed our family to meet and make friends with several local families whom have been a great resource to understanding this culture.

Next year, she will continue at that school in 2nd grade. For now, the education is acceptable for us, but after next year, we will need to re-evaluate what will be the best for her educational needs. But as with many decisions when living abroad, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it!

September 2006
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